"Committed to the restoration of wild Pacific salmon in mid Vancouver
Island watersheds through habitat restoration and community engagement"
"Committed to the restoration of wild Pacific salmon in mid Vancouver
Island watersheds through habitat restoration and community engagement"

911 Stranded Fish Rescue

StrandedSmolt 2Last week MVIHES was informed by a local resident that there were smolts stranded in a small pool at the end of Parrys Park Rd off Martindale Rd. The pool was left over after the banks of the Englishman River overflowed following The Great Rainfall last month. According to an Environment Canada weather station, we received 228.5 mm of rain in January compared to 43.9 mm in January 2017. In fact, we received almost as much rain this past January as  January, February and March 2017 combined (239.3 mm). 

Time to call on 911 Stranded Fish Rescue Ladies. In other words, Barb and Shelley. Armed with nets large enough to restrain the feistiest guppy, a couple of pails for transporting, and a bright pink coat to stun the smolts into submission, we approached the pool. OK, it was a puddle. The smolts were immediately alerted by the pink coat and took refuge under the rocks. Rats. Our new strategy was to take the rocks out of the puddle and scoop up the fish. In just over an hour we caught a total of 38 coho smolts and fry, plus one sculpin.

StrandedSmolt 1We had to toss out a lot of rocks to get at those fish (see photo)! We transported the fish just around the corner to the Martindale Pond in Shelly Creek where they were released and last seen looking for refuge from the pink coat. Home Sweet Home at last. 

Photography by Shelley Goertzen

Getting the Dirt on Martindale Pond

Sediment 3On February 13, five volunteers descended on Martindale Pond in Shelly Creek to measure the depth of sediment that has collected in the pond over the years. Martindale Pond is where Coho Salmon smolts spend the winter to avoid the turbulent flows of the Englishman River during the winter rains. Each spring,  we install a smolt trap that allows us to count them as they begin their migration back into the Englishman River. We have counted up to 8,000 in one spring, so Martindale Pond is an important site for the Englishman River Coho population.


Martindale Pond has been filling up with sediment which is the result of erosion of the creek banks. This results in there being less and less space in the pond for the smolts to occupy. MVIHES would like to have this excess sediment removed from the pond to make more room for the smolts, but first we need to determine how much sediment there is to remove.

Sediment 1We did this using wooden dowels with a scale in centimetres written on them. We placed one end of the dowel gently on the bottom of the pond and measured the water level using the scale on the dowel . Then we pushed the dowel down into the muck until we hit solid ground and measured the water level off the dowel again. The difference between the water level with the dowel pushed into the muck and that before it was pushed into the muck gives us the thickness of the sediment layer at the bottom of the pond. The average thickness of the sediment is 28 cm, however, as we got closer to where Shelly Creek enters the pond, the thickness increased to 70 and 90  cm (almost 1 m thick). The creek channel itself has 90 cm of sediment.

The next step is to put together a plan to have the sediment removed. Stay tuned for futher developments! 

 Sediment 2

Water Quality Monitors in the Englishman River Watershed

Once a week for the next 5 weeks our volunteers will be monitoring water quality at nine sites in the Englishman River Watershed. This monitoring program is part of  the Community Watershed Monitoring Network (CWMN) run by the Regional District of Nanaimo's (RDN) Drinking Water and Watershed Protection department.

Every year the CWMN monitors for 5 weeks in August to collect water quality data during the driest time of the year when water flows are at their lowest, and 5 weeks in the fall when rainfall is running off the land and carrying sediment into the creeks and rivers. Four water quality parameters are measured using scientific meters supplied by the RDN: water temperature, dissolved oxygen concentrations, turbidity (measures the amount of solids in the water), and conductivity (measures the amount of contaminants like metals). Each summer, two employees of the RDN hold a training session on water sampling technique, and the operation and maintenance of the meters. 

The sites that MVIHES monitor are located between the Orange Bridge in Parksville and the upper Englishman River above the falls, and include Shelly, Morison and Centre Creeks in addition to the Englishman River. Some of the sites are on Timber West and Island Timberlands' properties which require some four wheeling to access (woohoo!) and a radio to communicate with logging trucks on the road. 




Ben is using a meter for measuring temperature, oxygen and conductivity, while Elaine shows Janet how to use the turbidity meter on Centre Creek





This water quality data was critical for identifying erosion and sedimentation problems in Shelly Creek which led to some stream rehabilitation work and a hydrology study to identify the source of the problems. 

The RDN compiles all the data from the CWMN in an annual report titled "The State of Our Streams" which can be found here.






Our Volunteers Get CABIN Trained


On September 9 and 10, volunteers from the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society gathered at the Englishman River in Parksville for a training course in the collection of aquatic bugs using the Canadian Biological Monitoring Network (CABIN) method.

 The bugs living at the bottom of our rivers and streams can tell us a lot about the health of those waterbodies. Some are found only in unpolluted waters while others dominate polluted environments. The CABIN monitoring program, led by Environment and Climate Change Canada, assesses the health of freshwater ecosystems like the Englishman River using bugs.  





The course was taught by two intrepid instructors from Living Lakes Canada based out of Nelson, BC. Heather Leschied is in the foreground wearing the purple jacket, and Raegan Mallinson is holding the specially designed CABIN net used for collecting bugs. They did an awesome job training such a diverse group as ours!












Samples are collected by holding the CABIN net against the bottom of the creek or river in a riffle area while the person holding the net vigorously kicks up the bottom for exactly three long minutes. The insects living at the bottom are stirred up and swept into the net by the current where they are funnelled into a plastic bottle screwed into the end of the net.








The plastic bottle is unscrewed from the net and the contents poured into a plastic sampling jar. The jar is sent to a scientitist called a Taxonomist who now has the job of counting and identifying the bugs down to the species level. How they do this without going bug-eyed (heh, heh), I don't know.





Additional data about the river is collected, such as water quality, flow velocity, slope, the type of bottom, and surrounding vegetation.

CABIN7CABIN5Our volunteers have been trained and certified to a nationally acceptable standard. The beauty of this system is that monitoring data entered into the CABIN database from creeks and rivers across Canada have been collected using the same method, so the results from one waterbody can be compared with the results of others. The database contains reference creeks and rivers for each region of Canada that are used as examples of unaffected to severely affected ecosystems.  For instance, data collected from the Englishman River would be compared with the data from reference rivers for the Vancouver Island Region to determine where it lies on the scale of being environmentally affected.

MVIHES plans on using this method to monitor the health of the Englishman River and tributaries such as Shelly Creek. When done periodically on a waterbody it could determine whether health is improving, declining or remaining the same over time. It would be wonderful to have scientific proof that the health of a creek is improving  following stream remediation work or a change in water management.


Congratulations CABIN Volunteers!

2017 Annual General Meeting



The 2017 Annual General Meeting was held on September 16, 2017 in the Arbutus Room at the Parksville Community Conference Centre. A slide show of MVIHES volunteer activities was presented by Carl Rathburn (President), followed by a tribute to Faye Smith by Peter Law (Vice President). Faye, who passed away in March, was the Project Coordinator for MVIHES and a great friend for nearly 20 years. 




2017AGMJanThe guest speaker at the meeting was Jan Bednarski, a Research Scientist with Natural Resources Canada at the Pacific Geoscience Centre in Sidney, BC. He gave a fascinating and informative presenation on the glacial and geological history of the mid Vancouver Island area that shaped today's groundwater resources, along with photos and explanations of how seismic and geological information is collected. He presented MVIHES with a book on groundwater which is highly appreciated and will be well-used.


Following Jan's presentation, a memorial tribute to Faye Smith was held at the site where a flowering Dogwood tree and plaque has been installed in her honour in the park area adjacent to the Civic Centre. She is sadly missed.


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